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Weeks after saying 'I'm not an impartial juror,' McConnell pledges impartiality in oath

Louisville Courier-Journal logo Louisville Courier-Journal 1/16/2020 Billy Kobin, Louisville Courier Journal
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his 99 fellow senators took oaths Thursday afternoon to "do impartial justice" as the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump formally began.

After Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was summoned to preside at the trial and sworn in at 2 p.m., McConnell, R-Ky., and his Senate colleagues each took the following oath that is spelled out in the U.S. Constitution:

"I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God."

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The oath's language marked a contrast from what McConnell said in December before the House voted to impeach Trump, charging the Republican president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

"I'm not an impartial juror," McConnell said in December after a reporter asked him what his message is to Americans who might have concerns about his ability to be impartial during an impeachment trial.

"Impeachment is a political decision. The House made a partisan political decision to impeach," he added. "I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about this at all."

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signs an oath book along with all other members of the Senate, swearing to provide Òimpartial justiceÓ during the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump in this frame grab from video shot in the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2020. REUTERS/U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters © Thomson Reuters U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signs an oath book along with all other members of the Senate, swearing to provide Òimpartial justiceÓ during the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump in this frame grab from video shot in the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2020. REUTERS/U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters

More coverage: Senate opens impeachment trial against President Trump

Earlier: Sen. Mitch McConnell on possible impeachment trial: 'I'm not an impartial juror'

Thursday's swearing-in proceedings came after the seven House managers carried the articles of impeachment to the Senate and the lead manager, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read the articles aloud.

The impeachment process will now pause for the rest of the week and resume at 1 p.m. Tuesday, as McConnell noted when he took to the floor after each senator had signed the oath book.

The Kentucky Republican said earlier in the week that the Senate "will pledge to rise above the petty factionalism and do justice for our institutions, for our states and for the nation."

The abuse of power charge focuses on concerns that Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian president to publicly announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son, Hunter Biden.

The obstruction charge says Trump obstructed Congress during the impeachment inquiry by blocking testimony and withholding documents despite House subpoenas.

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Trump and his allies have argued that he was justified in attempting to root out corruption in Ukraine.

In a report also released Thursday, the Government Accountability Office said the White House Office of Management and Budget violated federal law by withholding $391 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine.

“The OMB, the White House, the administration — I'm saying this — broke the law," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in response to the GAO report.

Pelosi had been criticized for delaying sending the articles to the Senate after the House approved the articles Dec. 18. But she said the delay opened the door to more evidence, such as documents from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the offer of testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton.

Hours before the House managers arrived Thursday, McConnell criticized the signing ceremony that Pelosi held Wednesday before sending the articles to the Senate.

He noted the numerous pens emblazoned with Pelosi’s name in gold ink that she used to sign the document and then and handed out as souvenirs.

“The pens literally came in on silver platters. Golden pens on silver platters. A souvenir to celebrate the moment,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “As though this were a happy bill signing instead of the gravest process in our Constitution.”

He mocked the event and how Democrats posed for pictures afterward, saying it revealed the impeachment as a partisan effort.

“It was transparently partisan performance from beginning to end," McConnell said.

Quoting one of the nation's Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, McConnell said "only the Senate, with 'confidence enough in its own situation,' can 'preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused,and the representatives of the people, his accusers.'"

McConnell ended his speech by declaring the "House's hour is over."

"The Senate's time is at hand," he said. "It is time for this proud body to honor our founding purpose."

A two-thirds majority of the Senate is now required to convict and remove Trump, which is no small task in the chamber where Republicans outnumber Democrats 53 to 47.

USA TODAY contributed to this story.

Reach Billy Kobin at bkobin@courierjournal.com or 502-582-7030. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Weeks after saying 'I'm not an impartial juror,' McConnell pledges impartiality in oath

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